I should probably disclose the fact that I’m a Neil Young tragic. Everything he has done, is doing, or will do is fine by me. That may be somewhat of an overstatement; I think even I’d be sorely tested if he started stalking the night, plucking children from their beds and leaving their bloodless carcasses in a heap by the village fountain. But then Neil has never been about pleasing his audience. Though the greater public tends to associate him with the delicate country-tinged acoustic music found on records such as Harvest (1972) and Comes A Time (1977), his career has embraced all manner of styles from hardcore country to proto-grunge to electronica. While not all these experiments may have worked, not one of Neil’s real fans (getting a ‘Greatest Hits’ collection doesn’t count) would willingly do away with his willful inconsistency, because it is out of this restlessness and indifference to public expectations that Young’s greatest music emerges.

A case in point is 2010’s Le Noise. At an age where most ‘classic” rock artists are churning out depressingly bland ‘remember what we used to sound like?’ albums and touring their hits for flower-children turned investment bankers, Young releases an album consisting mostly of his voice, a ridiculously distorted electric guitar, and some electronic bleeps and bloops courtesy of producer Danny Lanois. Right after releasing a concept album about his electric car. I’ll save you some of the more extreme distortion-fests (you need a bit of Young experience to get it) and instead present to you with one of the acoustic cuts, ‘Peaceful Valley Boulevard’. Though using the surefire success formula of ‘Neil’s voice + acoustic guitar = bitchin’, the processed and echoey production, and the hefty length, shows how even when Neil Young plays it safe, he doesn’t.

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